Central Coventry fire protection rating dropped to lowest possible level

COVENTRY, RI (WPRI) — The organization that analyzes fire protection risk for insurance companies has dropped the Central Coventry Fire District’s classification to its lowest possible rating, Target 12 has learned.

According to a letter to the CCFD that was obtained by Target 12, the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) now rates the district’s “public protection classification” at 10, lowering the previous split rating of 5/9.

“Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet ISO’s minimum criteria,” the ISO website states.

The development follows Tuesday’s vote by Coventry Fire District taxpayers to dissolve the district instead of approving a higher fire tax rate that was aimed at blotting red ink. The Central Coventry Fire District filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2014, and in April the board released a plan to emerge from bankruptcy in 2020. That calls for annual fire tax increases, and now the ISO rating is expected to prompt higher insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.

An ISO rating of 10 spikes the average premium by about $251, which would be a 30 percent increase.

Dave Gorman, the union president for firefighters in both the Central Coventry District and the Coventry District, calls the rating change “scary.” And he predicts the town’s other three districts could face a ripple effect of similar rating drops.

Neither the CCFD chief nor the board president have returned phone calls from Target 12, and no one from ISO would comment on the factors that prompted the rating change. Gorman believes it involves staffing reductions provoked by the district’s financial woes.

“I’m confident [it was] because Central Coventry lost or reduced their ability to pump the minimum gallons of water per minute needed because fire stations were closed,” Gorman said. “And pumper trucks have been removed from service.”

Gorman said firefighters and the district chief warned the town that a rating reduction was inevitable, but he said the prediction was met with accusations from various skeptics.

“[They said] just scare tactics. It’s the union being a bunch of thugs,” Gorman said. “We knew eventually the day would come, and Wednesday the day came. The district was notified.”

Target 12 wanted to know what a rock bottom ISO rating might mean to premiums. A local insurance broker, who asked not be identified, checked five insurance carriers about the cost of insuring a $250,000 home. The average of the premiums was $824 dollars with an ISO rating of 5. An ISO rating of 10 spikes the average premium by about $251, which would be a 30 percent increase.

According to the letter, the effective date for the new rating is December 1, 2015.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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